Online Communities: “Category Destroyer” or “Third Way”

Two blog posts have discussed the long-term affect of online communities

In “The Future Place Blog” (www.thefutureplace.typepad.com) Ray Poynter discusses the “New Market Research” where large scale communities create a new paradigm where researchers interact with large groups of participants/customers so that they have ongoing, longitudinal research that delivers both quantitative and qualitative information.  He terms this as a “category destroyer” that destroys proactive market research as we know it in favor of more interactive understsanding of consumers.  An exerpt from his blog post:

This new paradigm for research, immersed in people’s lives, is what I am referring to as New MR. The leading examples of this New MR, at the moment, come from online research communities. These communities bring marketers, customers, and researchers together in an ongoing conversation.

Head of Synovate, Adrian Chedore, has described communities as the fastest growing aspect of market research, and the reason for his deal with Vision Critical. However, unlike online data collection, online communities are a true category destroyer. Communities compete for quantitative research budgets, but deliver qualitative research benefits. Communities transform the researcher from the ‘hidden observer’ to an active participant, co-creating value with both the brand and the customers.

Drawing on Poynter’s discussion, Emiel Van Wegan (www.researchreinvented.blogspot.com) argues that communities will not “destroy” current market research methods but will present a “Third Way” that is faster, deeper and a greater value. 

Van Wegan believes that middle size communities will deliver the value that will make them the “Third Way.”  Here is an exerpt from his blog post:

It’s a bit like Bill Clinton’s centrism (a.k.a. the “third way“) advocating a mix of some left-wing and right-wing policies. This third method of market research may help us overcome the fears of the more traditional orientated researchers – both the qual and quant teams who are afraid it may cannibalise their research. It will be another method of market research, leveraging the strengths of both methods combined with the benefits of the available technology.

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